It's inevitable that you will have wobbly times in your relationship. You are different - always have been, always will be! Sometimes you’ll have different wants or opinions, sometimes you’ll have inadvertently annoyed the other, sometimes stresses will come in from outside the relationship, and sometimes there will be a misunderstanding.
Whatever is the cause of the wobble, you need to do things:
1. Assume the best of your partner.
2. Get curious.
You have to assume that your partner is not deliberately trying to hurt you or annoy you or piss you off in any way. You have to assume that your partner loves you and you’re on the same team. So if they are acting in a way that seems unloving or not on the same team, get curious as to why. Ask them open-ended questions to understand what is going on for them. “Babe, I’m curious what’s going on for you…” “Honey, can you tell me more about that…” “Sweetheart, I’m feeling a little confused, could you take me through that again more slowly…”
This might sound simple, but it’s not always so as we can easily trigger our nervous systems and become emotionally dysregulated, so it’s hard to stay calm enough to assume the best and get curious, rather than respond to threat and get defensive (either by going on the attack or by putting up your walls or by succumbing to the other to “keep the peace”).
When you get that familiar little internal jolt of annoyance or anxiety, take a breath to help keep your nervous system calm, remind yourself that this is your beloved not your enemy, you’re on the same side (you might need a few more breaths here!) and then reach out to them with calm, loving curiosity.
If you’re both doing this, then you’ll find it so much easier to prevent wobbles escalating into full-on earthquakes – and all the damage that ensues.
Now I do need to stress that this doesn’t apply to full on physically and emotionally abusive relationships. If you’re in one of those, you need to get out. Nevertheless, I’m often amazed at how really quite toxic relationships can turn around when both parties are committed to changing their ways, individually and as a couple. When a couple come to me and want to make it work, when they each can acknowledge that they are on the same team then there is hope that they can learn to relate better. If they can’t take that first step, if either is making the other wrong, or they are totally hating on each other, there’s no hope. But sometimes all we need is just a little crack for the light to start coming through…